How to Get Promoted, The Secret of My Success, and Why Sponsors Matter
Updated: Mar 31
Disappointed you didn’t get that job promotion? Did someone under qualified get it instead? Wondering how to finally move up in your career?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, keep reading, because this advice will improve your career trajectory. It will also make it more fun to go into the office each day. Either way, you have nothing to lose.
The Secret of my Success
To illustrate the one technique most of us under utilize in achieving that all elusive promotion, let’s start with a movie called “The Secret of My Success” starring Michael J Fox.
This little 80’s gem is about a talented twenty-something who works his way from mail room clerk to executive chair within a just a few short months. Insert Hollywood movie magic and music montages here.
You may know the movie well, but there’s an important sub-theme crucial to moving up within any organization.
You see, it wasn’t just the hard work, dedication, or ability to put on a tie in the elevator, Michael J Fox’s meteoric rise to the executive team. Nor was it his innovation. And it most definitely had nothing to do with his height.
Michael J Fox’s character rose to the top because he had a sponsor.
And no I’m not talking about Coke or Pepsi. Or even McDonalds.
Not that kind of sponsor.
If you missed out on a promotion, and you know your work is solid, then well, there’s a good chance you failed to secure your people’s sponsor.
What is a People’s Sponsor?
Everyone needs a Peoples Sponsor. But what are they, and why do they matter?
It’s simple really. Organizations are made up of flesh and bone human beings. We’re tribal creatures. We’re not AI. Our brains struggle with vast amounts of data. Of data base results, spreadsheet queries, weekly reporting, and email threads.
Unsung hero’s, those who might quality keep your company profitable or well organized rarely step into the lime light.
So when the moment comes for your name to be mentioned at a senior leadership or executive team, the person speaking on your behalf matters the most.
In the Secret to My Success, Michael J Fox had the CEO and a few executives asking about this ideas. They had seen his work. They were intrigued by what he was capable of. Michael J Fox’s character, his ideas, were now associated with positive thoughts and emotions.
In this case the People’s Sponsor wasn’t one specific person, it was an executive team noticing him and speaking of him frequently, even when Michael J Fox’s character wasn’t in attendance.
Your Reputation Enters a Room Before you Do.
So Does Your Brand.
Your reputation is important. So is your brand. None of us are perfect. However all of us have something we’re good at, or even great at. Skills to benefit any company. Maybe you have excellent analytical skills, maybe you’re a great collaborator, maybe attention to detail is your strong point.
But how well does your boss know you? I mean you. Not your work.
When your boss thinks about you, do they know who you are? Do they know what you’re capable of? Do they know your story?
At employee performance meetings most managers don’t have time or the desire to get into the details of all their employees. Instead, they do what most of do, when we think of people. We go with our gut, we go with what we can quickly remember. We focus on a feeling.
Maybe you trust an employee, maybe you don’t.
Maybe an employee is highly intelligent, but causes problems at work.
Or maybe an employee is exceptional because of that one thing they do really well.
But whatever it is, everything will boil down to a feeling.
And feelings are created by one thing and one thing only — relationships.
Want to get ahead? Create Real Relationships at Work
If you’re serious about moving upwards in the place you work, create authentic relationships with your managers and those you work in operations or in projects.
The word authentic is important here.
Ultimately real and healthy relationships are a crucial no matter what your goals of employment are.
Get to know those around you personally. Build relationships. At all levels.
Let those above, managers, executives and the like, get to know who you are, and what you’re all about.
Tell them your story. Tell them about your accomplishments. Tell them about your career goals.
Don’t worry that you’re not being modest, this is not that time for that. Don’t assume they know you and what you’ve already accomplished. Tell them.
This approach will improve your brand and build your reputation.
This approach will increase the chances your name gets mentioned at executive or leadership meetings if of course this one last piece happens…
Are you a Manager? If yes, Give your Power Away
People Sponsors, those with positions of influence, your job includes giving your power away. In the meetings the rest of the team doesn’t get invited to: give your power away.
In the sessions where you are congratulated for launching on schedule.
Give your power away.
In moments when negative comments are made about someone on your team, who’s done great work for you, protected and defend them.
Give your power away.
Let everyone on your executive team know of the sacrifices your team has made, quietly without any recognition.
Give your power away.
Ted Talk on Finding Your Sponsors, and Giving Your Power Away
A good friend Chris sent me this podcast a few weeks back which inspired this article. I hope you enjoy and share it and this idea with others.
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